The United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) supports the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) to acquire three helicopters from the Burundi National Defence Forces (BNDF). In an official statement posted on their X (formerly Twitter) account, UNSOS highlighted the significance of this development for strengthening ATMIS operations in Somalia.
The acquisition includes Mi-8 and Bell 412 helicopters, which the United Nations authorised as force enablers. The helicopters will be crucial in enhancing the fight against the terrorist group al-Shabaab. They will enable troop airlifting, swift resupply of critical resources, and life-saving medical evacuations from the frontlines. The additional enablers will be under the command and control of the ATMIS Force Commander.
UNSOS reaffirmed its commitment to providing essential logistical support and facilitating ATMIS in close and joint collaboration with the Somali Security Forces (SSF). This support aims to assist ATMIS in executing its mandate effectively in Somalia.
Delivery amid withdrawal pause
The announcement comes after the African Union’s (AU) acceptance of the 90-day technical pause in ATMIS’ troops withdrawal. The pause will allow for strategic planning, coordination, and a comprehensive review of the ATMIS’ role in Somalia.
Efficient troop movements, swift supply lines, and timely medical evacuations are crucial aspects of tackling al-Shabaab. The collaboration between UNSOS, ATMIS, and the Somali Security Forces underscores the importance of coordination in promoting stability in Somalia.
The first two helicopters arrived in July
Somalia has already received Bell 412 helicopters, which were supposed to significantly increase the Somali National Army’s (SNA) capabilities. In July, SNA received two of these twin-engine multipurpose helicopters, with other three reportedly on their way. It remains unclear whether the three helicopters from BNDF are those that had been announced earlier.
While the origin of the two earlier aircraft remains unknown, the U.S. Defence Security Cooperation Agency highlighted their ability to “execute counterinsurgency operations, border security, search and rescue, and support for the civilian population.” An unnamed military official also praised the multi-role nature of the aircraft as well as its ability to carry out medical evacuations and combat operations.
Video footage the Minister of Defence Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur shared on X shows one helicopter firing rockets at an unidentified location, which may indicate that they are already in combat.